There's something deeply unsettling about being heavily in debt. The means of repayment might feel like they're beyond you, something you will never be able to get control over. It also makes planning for the future difficult, since this debt isn't going to go away anytime soon. Yes, these debts are legitimate, and yes, you are obligated to pay them. If your financial troubles are so severe that you cannot see a way out of your problems, then you should certainly enquire about your eligibility for a financial hardship variation. This is not a way of absolving your from your debts, and you will still need to pay them off. It simply gives you some much-needed breathing space which should allow you enough time to get your affairs in order, and to pay the debt without having to teeter on the brink of financial ruin.
A Financial Crisis
You would generally only be eligible for a financial hardship variation if you can prove that you're experiencing a financial crisis that could be alleviated by an alteration to one of your debts. Perhaps your employment situation has changed, or perhaps you have multiple debts owed to numerous creditors and are simply unable to keep up with the payments on your current income. You could conceivably apply for a financial hardship variation on each debt that you owe, but in order to maintain payments it might only be necessary to apply with the creditor to whom you owe the most, and to make repayments to your other creditors as per usual.
Types of Financial Hardship Variations
There are a number of ways in which a financial hardship variation can be implemented. The most helpful is perhaps an extension of the applicable timeframe. This can add several years to your repayments, but the amount of each repayment becomes lower, making the debt far more manageable. In the end you might end up paying more once interest is applied, but this can be worthwhile if you are left with more money in your actual pocket each month. A financial hardship variation can also result in a temporary postponement of your repayments, and this is sometimes considered when it's thought that your financial situation might improve. This might be because of new employment or increased working hours, or it might be because you faced some unexpected, though temporary expenses that affected your ability to make repayments.
You should apply with the creditor in question if you wish to request a financial hardship variation. They are under no obligation to approve your request, and they might require additional information, such as your financial records (including those detailing any other debts you might be facing). If your request is denied and you believe you have legitimate grounds to dispute this decision, you might wish to query the matter with the Financial Ombudsman Service who can review the matter. If a debt collection service pertaining to the outstanding amount was to contact you during the time in which your application is being considered, simply inform them that you have applied for a financial hardship variation with the creditor in question, and they will then be perfectly understanding about the new arrangement.
A financial hardship variation is not a way out of your debts, but is simply a way of making them more manageable.